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Council Notebook

Laurels for the Laurette

Once upon a midnight dreary, while Alexandria Poet Laureate Amy Young pondered weak and weary.

Yes, that time has arrived. Young has reached the end of her time as the city's chief official wordsmith, a term limit imposed on the position since it was created back in 2006. Earlier this month, City Council members officially designated Nikki Giovanni as the city's newest poet laureate. That means that the outgoing poet's time in the sun has drawn to a close.

But Young is using her final hours to rage against the dying of the light.

After City Council members presented her with a proclamation honoring her service, Young presented elected officials with a bound volume of poems collected as part of her Mapping Alexandria in Poems and Pictures initiative — known by the acronym MAPP. The project includes about 80 poems, a compilation that includes spots from across the city. After receiving her official proclamation, Young read one of her favorites — a brief composition by Hammond eighth grade student Dawit Haile titled "North Imboden Street."

"The wind was blowing right across my street," the poem explained. "The wind was blowing so hard there was no sign of heat."

When Young was finished, Mayor Bill Euille designated Vice Mayor and author Allison Silberberg to lead the City Council's poetry writing efforts. The mayor said that he expected all the elected leaders and senior staff to make additions to the Alexandria oeuvre.

"They are due by budget adoption night, May 6," the mayor ordered. "You can even write it on the budget, if you like."

Governing in Circles

Governing Alexandria may be a rat race, but at least it's one that has the opportunity to raise money for charity.

Next month, Alexandria will host the city's first Relay for Life — a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society that dates back to 1986. Organizers of the inaugural Alexandria relay plan to convene at 2 p.m. on May 18 at George Washington Middle School and relay up and down the Mount Vernon Avenue corridor. Organizers hope to raise about $40,000, a goal they're already halfway toward achieving.

During Tuesday night's City Council meeting, the mayor designated Councilman Justin Wilson and Councilman Paul Smedberg to lead the City Council team. There's only one problem — council members will be at City Hall on May 18 for a public hearing.

"We're going to be going in circles here," quipped Wilson.

Fidler in the Park

For more than a decade, Danielle Fidler served on the Alexandria Policy Commission as a member, vice chairwoman and ultimately chairwoman. Now she can add a new feather in the cap, winner of the Ellen Pickering Environmental Excellence Award.

Last week, Alexandria Renew Enterprises and the Environmental Policy Commission named Fidler of the annual award, named in honor of the late Ellen Pickering — a legendary Alexandria environmental leader who served briefly as a member of City Council in the late 1970s. The award was presented during the city's official Earth Day celebration at Ben Brenman Park last weekend.

Fittingly, a tree will be planted in Fidler’s honor.

Capital Transparency

What are the city's capital spending priorities for the coming decade? Members of the Budged and Fiscal Affairs Advisory Committee say city leaders could do a better job explaining.

One of the recommendations in the committee's 32-page annual report is that city leaders list all projects in the Capital Improvement Plan by priority rank and "a transparent justification." Members also suggested that council members consider requiring each department or agency to provide a cost-benefit analysis for projects.

"It is difficult to track projects from years to year, as some are eliminated and others are merged," the report concludes. "Better explanation of transit and transportation projects would be helpful, including the reasons and justifications of the projects and costs."